What’s Going On in My Head When I Cancel Plans
Anxiety has wreaked havoc on my social life. Once upon a time, I couldn’t wait for the weekend. It was a chance to get together with friends and go out to dinner, a sporting event, a concert, dancing or just a quiet night catching up. I would count down the days until we could all get together and catch up. The excitement of making plans, trying something new, meeting new people and relaxing after a long work week was a huge part of my life. I also didn’t mind long commutes to new places. I saw this all as an adventure and new life experiences.
Even with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), I still managed to get out. Then, social anxiety hit out of nowhere. I was standing in line at a crowded movie theatre and began to have a panic attack. Having experienced panic attacks as part of my anxiety disorder, I immediately knew what it was. I couldn’t breathe, I started shaking, the room started spinning, and I needed to get out and get home.
Over the past few years, I know people have given up on me. It began with many invites out to events that were right up my alley. Then, at the last second, those feelings of panic, and fear would ensue. I found myself getting dressed to go out, reaching for the doorknob and bam, that awful sense of doom and dread would hit me like a sack of bricks. There I was, sitting on my couch, all dressed up with somewhere to go, but I just couldn’t get myself out the door.
This sense of fear manifested into all aspects of my social life. I started canceling plans with friends and family. I even canceled two vacations because I could not bring myself to leave the security of my house. Where I was once an avid world traveler, I was now taking deep breaths while trying to convince myself to drive down the street to the grocery store.
This situation is a catch-22. I am so devastated when I see pictures of my friends’ get-togethers on social media — events I would usually be invited to, but then realizing I probably didn’t get invited because everyone knows I would most likely end up no-showing or canceling last-minute. This pattern often then leads to an increase in my depression/”>depression because I feel like no one cares.
When I do manage to get out, I am always in a state of catlike readiness, with my adrenaline at an all-time high. These events usually exhaust me for days afterward, and I often end up staying home in bed in order to recuperate.
I am writing this piece in hopes that those of you who have friends like me will better understand what is going on in our heads. Also, here are a few things that might help us:
1. Social anxiety is nothing personal.
We do not hate you, we are not choosing a better option over you and we are not trying to get away from our friends. We are hit with debilitating anxiety that takes over our ability to socialize and maintain friendships. Please do not take our lack of socialization with you as a lack of caring about our friendship or relationship.
2. Keep inviting us out.
We have bad days and not-so-bad days. Some days, we manage to get out and these days are huge victories for us.
3. We function better in small groups and quiet situations.
Crowds, loud noises and enclosed spaces make us panic. We are most likely to come out when gatherings are small and intimate.
4. Please don’t give up on us when we are giving up on ourselves.
We do value your friendship, but we are dealing with a debilitating and exhausting battle inside our heads.
5. If we cancel, ask if there is something we can do that’s quiet.
Even coming over to my place and just talking or relaxing may be just what we need.
Most importantly, if you are struggling with any form of mental illness, please reach out for help. Battling the thoughts inside your head all day, every day is one of the hardest things you can do, and it’s even harder when you’re doing it alone. Seeking help is not a weakness; it’s one of the strongest things you can do for yourself.
Photo by Analise Benevides on Unsplash